In­mate care lack­ing, re­port says

Prob­lems persist in some lock­ups where state pays to house over­flow pop­u­la­tion, med­i­cal re­ceiver says.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Paige St. John paige.stjohn@la­times.com Twit­ter:@paigestjohn

SACRA­MENTO — Although health­care in Cal­i­for­nia’s 34 state-owned prisons is im­prov­ing, prob­lems persist in some lock­ups where the state pays to house its over­flow in­mate pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to med­i­cal re­ceiver Clark Kelso.

“Lit­tle progress has been made in re­solv­ing, much less im­prov­ing” the care pro­vided to 4,200 in­mates in seven such fa­cil­i­ties, Kelso said in a re­port filed Mon­day with the three fed­eral judges who over­see the state’s pri­son sys­tem.

Four of the seven prisons in Kern and San Bernardino coun­ties are owned by the GEO Group; three are owned by small com­mu­ni­ties.

Cal­i­for­nia also houses more than 8,000 in­mates in pri­vate prisons out­side the state. To save money, Gov. Jerry Brown wants to move them to the con­tract prisons within Cal­i­for­nia, a move Kelso said could in­crease the prob­lems with med­i­cal care at those fa­cil­i­ties.

The worst prob­lems were at GEO’s women’s pri­son in McFarland, said Joyce Hay­hoe, a spokes­woman for Kelso. The pri­son holds 231 women who are within a year of re­lease. The state pays GEO $9 mil­lion a year to house them.

Ac­cord­ing to Kelso’s re­port, in­mates at the GEO pri­son went with­out a physi­cian for a month. The re­port cites all seven con­tract prisons for a “lack of ac­count- abil­ity” and fail­ure to em­ploy qual­i­fied physi­cians to meet state re­quire­ments that doc­tors be avail­able at least five days a week.

As a re­sult, Kelso said, in­mates with health prob­lems have had to be re­turned to state-op­er­ated prisons for their care.

Med­i­cal care at the state’s own prisons con­tin­ues to im­prove, Kelso’s re­port notes, and his of­fice is pre­par­ing to re­turn health­care man­age­ment to the state, one pri­son at a time. In April, the in­de­pen­dent of­fice of in­spec­tor gen­eral deemed in­mate care at Fol­som State Pri­son ad­e­quate, po­si­tion­ing it for fi­nal re­view by Kelso’s of­fice and a re­turn to state con­trol.

The state cor­rec­tions depart­ment pro­vided a brief writ­ten re­sponse to Kelso’s re­port, say­ing the agency was “pleased” that the doc­u­ment noted over­all progress. The state­ment said the agency is “work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively” with Kelso’s of­fice “to im­prove the de­liv­ery of care” in the con­tract prisons.

The GEO Group owns or man­ages 106 prisons in the United States and other coun­tries, hold­ing 85,000 in­mates. It re­ported rev­enue of $427 mil­lion for the first three months of the year.

Med­i­cal staff at the McFarland pri­son re­ferred calls to the Florida com­pany’s cor­po­rate of­fices. A spokesman pro­vided a writ­ten state­ment that the com­pany’s prisons “have al­ways strived to pro­vide high-qual­ity med­i­cal ser­vices con­sis­tent with strict con­trac­tual re­quire­ments and in­dus­trylead­ing stan­dards.”

The com­pany will work with Cal­i­for­nia to “en­sure con­sis­tent de­liv­ery of qual­ity med­i­cal ser­vices,” the state­ment said.

The state con­tract with the GEO Group re­quires the pri­vate pri­son op­er­a­tor to pro­vide in­mates with “es­sen­tial health­care ser­vices,” in­clud­ing med­i­ca­tion and ba­sic treat­ment for ill­nesses and in­juries, as well as 24hour ac­cess to emer­gency med­i­cal and men­tal health­care, daily ac­cess to nurses and a pri­mary care provider avail­able at least five days a week.

The con­tract al­lows the state to seek dam­ages if the pri­son op­er­a­tor does not meet min­i­mum health­care staffing re­quire­ments.

The cor­rec­tions depart­ment will not seek dam­ages, said spokes­woman Deb­o­rah Hoffman. In­stead, she said, the agency is ask­ing con­tract op­er­a­tors to in­crease the amount of time doc­tors and nurses are avail­able, while re­vis­ing train­ing and au­dit­ing re­quire­ments.

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